April 28, 2016 — Just two months after a jury awarded $72 million, another jury in St. Louis is set to decide whether to award compensation to a woman who developed ovarian cancer after using talcum powder for nearly 40 years.
The lawsuit (PDF) was filed in Missouri Circuit Court, Ristesund v. Johnson & Johnson, Case No. 1422-CC09012-01.
The 62 year-old plaintiff, Gloria Ristesund, is a resident of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She claims to have routinely used Johnson’s Baby Powder genitally from 1973 until her diagnosis of endometrioid ovarian cancer in August 2011.
Her lawyers say Johnson & Johnson knew about the risk of cancer from talcum powder but failed to provide warnings. They say Ristesund’s use of baby powder combined with her pre-existing endometriosis increased her risk of cancer by 214%.
According to CVN, lawyers told the jury in opening arguments:
“This case is about profit over human life — specifically, women’s lives. … [J&J] put a corporate philosophy of profit over the safety of their customers.”
In February 2016, another jury in St. Louis awarded $72 million to the family of Jacqueline Fox, a black woman from Alabama who died of ovarian cancer last year. She used baby powder for more than 35 years.
The evidence introduced at trial includes several internal memos from Johnson & Johnson. One memo from 1992 acknowledges concerns about cancer from baby powder, then recommends expanding marketing toward black and Hispanic women.
In another memo from 1994, a medical consultant warns that anyone who denies the link between talcum powder and cancer is “denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.”
Johnson & Johnson is facing about 1,200 lawsuits from women with ovarian cancer. The size of the litigation has skyrocketed since the first case went to trial in November 2013. The jury did not award damages, but said the company should have warned about cancer.
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